Home

Composer Compendium: David Wise

Leave a comment

In simpler times there were great melodies driving the music composition of games. When you’re limited to a handful of sound channels it really tests composers to make a piece that fits the game they are working on and is memorable. It also has to survive repeated listens, as many games were short and had only a handful of tracks. Today we look at one of the best Western composers for one of the best European game development companies. David Wise was Rare Ltd’s house composer from 1985 to 2009, and his work stands out like the company he worked for.

His first handful of years were spent with Nintendo’s juggernaut Entertainment System. Rare’s philosophy at this time was to make as many games as they possibly could, and some stand out as great titles for the system, while others are quite smelly. The first games with Wise’s compositions came out in a year or two after his hire, and they were Slalom and Wizards & Warriors. One of the best racing games on the system carries Wise’s compositions, R.C. Pro-Am!.


I like to call Slalom ‘Downhill Butt Simulator’.

The following year saw double the number of Wise compositions, showing that he most likely was not sitting around for the first couple years of his existence at the company. The rest of the year’s work featured game show adaptations in Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! Rare’s own video board game Anticipation rounds out 1988.

1989 was a big year for Mr. Wise, and includes almost too many games to list, as does the following year. The Sesame Street games are well known for their high quality digitized voices, which sound almost too good for the NES. Wise helped with those, starting with Sesame Street ABC. It includes such beloved classics as Taboo: The Sixth Sense, Hollywood Squares, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and WWF Wrestlemania. In seriousness though there were great games or ports that Mr. Wise composed or rearranged, those include Marble Madness, Cobra Triangle, Ironsword: Wizards & Warriors II. Finally, push your periscopes up and look across the horizon for the best and most valuable game ever made. Silent Service.

The decade changed but the NES still reigned supreme. As a result of this David Wise still had plenty of projects to work on. 1990 was the biggest year yet, with many classics, as well as the first foray onto the Game Boy. The game show adaptations continued with Double Dare being a new challenger. Rare must have had a monopoly on these game show adaptations. On top of these he got to work on some original Rare titles such as Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll, Solar Jetman, Super Glove Ball, Time Lord, and Pin*Bot for the NES, with Wizards & Warriors Chapter X: The Fortress of Fear and The Amazing Spider-Man on Game Boy. There were some arcade ports and movie adaptations as well including Captain Skyhawk, NARC, Cabal, Arch Rivals, and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Battletoads was the next big and well remembered Rare title that Wise composed the music on. You can thank him for that groovy pause music as well as everything else in the original NES release and the mostly unrelated Game Boy release as well. Sesame Street ABC & 123 released in 1991 alongside the aforementioned Battletoads, Beetlejuice, and super R.C. Pro-Am.

The next year saw Rare stretching its arms onto the up and coming Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, with Championship Pro-Am. They did not completely abandon the Nintendo systems, but did not have him move forward to the new Super Nintendo yet. On the NES there was R.C. Pro-Am II, Wizards & Warriors III, and the port of Danny Sullivan’s Indy Heat. Battletoad mania would start in 1993.

Since the original release of Battletoads the series had proven quite popular, so Rare had the first Battletoads ported onto the Genesis and Game Gear. Battletoads in Battlemaniacs and Battletoads & Double Dragon marked the move onto the SNES. The latter also saw releases on the NES, Genesis, and Game Boy. Battletoads in Ragnarok’s World is a proper Game Boy port of the first Battletoads that also released this year. Other than Battletoads Mr. Wise also arranged the 16 bit port of Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll for the Genesis, as well as X The Ball for the Arcade.

The next year may well be the year that solidified Mr. Wise as a truly great composer, as his music got to grace one of the most beloved video games of all times, not just of the 16 bit era, but ever. This was also the year that saw a severe decrease in output from our composer, almost being entirely limited to the series spawned by this game. You may be asking what game I’m getting to. Donkey. Kong. Country. There was also Monster Max and the arcade port of Battletoads, but 1994 was the year of Kong.

For the better part of the next decade Mr. Wise was mostly limited to the Donkey Kong Country series, so his early output of many games in a year decreased to one or two a year until his departure from Rare. Both of the followup games to Donkey Kong Country on the SNES were composed by Mr. Wise, but his contributions diminished with each game. The first Donkey Kong Land on Game Boy features some Wise compositions. Diddy Kong Racing on N64 was the lone game he composed for on the Big N’s system.

There was a three year lull between Diddy Kong Racing and his next game, which was the Game Boy Color port of the first Donkey Kong Country. After that he moved onto his lone Gamecube game, Star Fox Adventures. A couple Game Boy Advance games followed, Its Mr. Pants and Donkey Kong Country 3. Next was the DS games Diddy Kong Racing DS and Viva Pinata: Pocket Paradise. By this point Rare had been sold by Nintendo to Microsoft. He only worked on one Xbox 360 game before his departure from Rare, War World. After this he went freelance with his own studio, composing the iOS game Sorcery! Retro Studios brought him back to the land of Nintendo earlier this year to return to his most famous series. The Wii U needed help and David Wise delivered with the soundtrack to Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. His most recent game is Tengami for iOS and the Wii U.

Psychotic Reviews: Beyond Oasis

Leave a comment

Beyond Oasis is an action/adventure game developed by Ancient for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. It released quite late in the system’s lifecycle, late 1994 for Japan and 1995 everywhere else. Since Ancient was founded by Yuzo Koshiro it also includes a soundtrack composed by him. This is most likely Sega’s answer to The Legend of Zelda mixed with some Mana series since there are many similarities in gameplay design, puzzle solving, and progression.

You play as Prince Ali of the Kingdom of Oasis, and some bad stuff is starting to go down. One day while digging in an old ruin Prince Ali finds a gold armlet, which fixes itself to his wrist and tells him of his destiny to save Oasis. Clothing style and culture shows that the game is based on Middle Eastern mythology and literature such as the 1001 Arabian Nights. The gold armlet has the ability to control spirits, one of which is named after the class of infernal djinni Efreet.

There are differences with the weapon and item systems, as well as abilities. Ali starts off with a knife as your default weapon, this knife has unlimited uses but a short reach. You can pick up other weapons such as a bow, sword, and bombs for damage boosts, but these all break after a certain number of uses. Planning when and where to use your stronger weapons is a must, I usually saved them for boss battles.

Combat is quite fun as it offers great depth. It feels like you’re playing a brawler within your adventure game as Ali has kicks, swipes, stabs, jump kicks, flying stabs and slashes, flip attacks, and a spin attack. A lot of these attacks can only be used with your first knife though, so heavy damage weapons that can break are best used for more predictable fights like bosses. Each spirit has its own attacks as well, and these take large chunks of your SP down. Just having a spirit out will slowly deplete your SP bar.

The items you find mostly heal you. Ali has two stats to worry about, HP and SP. HP is your health, like it is every game that has HP. SP are your Spell Points, and these are used up just by having a spirit out or using a spirit’s magical abilities. These healing items are certain food items. Items like meat or cheese heals your HP while fruits heal your SP, still others heal both stats! You can also pick up powerups for your spirits, various weapons, and healing items in treasure chests scattered throughout Oasis.

There are plenty of secrets to find while exploring the world, even some hidden mini games that give quite nice rewards. In terms of following the storyline though the game is just as linear as any Zelda game. Beyond Oasis has the built in feature known as the “go-here” arrow when you’re off doing your quest. The map is stylized and fairly difficult to read when you’re first starting the game though. Once you’ve explored most of it the map will make sense.

The game feels quite balanced in its world design. You usually have nice area of outdoor overworld to explore while you make your way from dungeon to dungeon. The game also has a natural break between spirits. You can find the first two spirits quickly, but then Ali starts to work to unfold more of this mysterious group that is threatening his Kingdom before working to get the last two. Its a nice break between the two and lets the story keep you interested in what’s happening instead of breaking it up like this: get all spirits, uncover mystery.

A physical copy for the Genesis seems to be a bit uncommon, and its price ranges from $15-25 for a loose cartridge. This game has seen various digital releases and is on some modern compilations such as Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection and Steam.

Composer Compendium: Naoki Kodaka

Leave a comment

Naoki Kodaka is one of the most listened to 8-bit composers. I’m sure most of you have heard some of the music from the games he worked on, but may not have realized how many classics he had a hand in. Kodaka is known for his work at a company called Sunsoft, and he spent the better part of a decade composing soundtracks for the company. His first one was a shooter for the Famicom Disc System, Dead Zone in 1986.

His next game would also be exclusive to the FDS, Nazoler Land. Sunsoft was stepping up in the world and got the rights to port a couple of popular games to the NES. Activision’s PC hit Shanghai and Bally Midway’s arcade smash hit Spy Hunter were both ported to the NES by Sunsoft, and the soundtracks were re-arranged by Kodaka.

Sunsoft soon went international as a result of the success of these ports. In 1988 their Zapper game Freedom Force and first international sensation Blaster Master both had soundtracks composed by Kodaka and his fellow associates at the company. Naohisa Morota developed a sound engine that lead to Sunsoft’s unique bass heavy sound style. This is now known as Sunsoft bass as a result of how much it stands out and the high quality of the company’s soundtracks from the NES era. This year closed out with a port of Platoon and the Japanese FDS exclusive Nankin no Adventure.

The following two years are arguably the golden years of 8-bit soundtracks, with Kodaka and Sunsoft being one of the biggest reasons for this. In 1989 the company released Fester’s Quest and Batman. The next year saw the Genesis/Mega Drive version of Batman, as well as the almost Terminator game Journey to Silius, as well as Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Nantettatte!! Baseball was the last of Sunsoft’s Famicom exclusive games. All of these games had Kodaka at the musical helm.

Sunsoft was rather slow to convert to the 16 bit systems overall. They did release Batman for the Genesis, but continued pouring a great effort into the declining Famicom. Still, some great games and soundtracks came about from this arrangement. In 1991 Sunsoft released Ufouria seemingly everywhere but North America, they developed an updated version of Spy Hunter called Super Spy Hunter, and followed up on Batman with Return of the Joker. 1992 saw the release of Super Fantasy Zone for the Mega Drive. Again, these are all Sunsoft’s games that had Kodaka as the lead composer.

Kodaka’s output finally started slowing down when Sunsoft had him start work on their flagship strategy RPG series Albert Odyssey for the Super Famicom in 1993. The following year would have Albert Odyssey II and Sugoi Hebereke release for the SFC.

A two year break would follow before the third Albert Odyssey game released, Sunsoft moving the to the very popular in Japan Sega Saturn. North America had this game released by Working Designs as Albert Odyssey: Legend of Eldean. Kodaka’s final composing project before retiring from video games would be Out Live: Be Elimiate Yesterday for the Playstation, and exclusively in Japan.

Why Did I Play This? Episode 10: Stargate

Leave a comment

The series returns with a nice look at one of the many ignored movie licensed games of the 16 bit era. Stargate was made by Acclaim and released for the SNES and Sega Genesis/Mega Drive in 1995, but not all was well in this land of milk and honey.

What happens when your low class nametag goes away and you can’t use it anymore? Well it looks like you just have to use your own name and hope nobody notices and ignores such MEDIOCRITIES!

Check me out on Twitter, WordPress, and Facebook!
https://twitter.com/SirPsychoPlays
https://whydidiplaythis.wordpress.com/
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Why-Did-I-Play-This/277098909016440

Random Plays: Outrun 2019

Leave a comment

Random plays is a small change up of the Let’s Play format. Instead of pushing out part after part of an entire game I’ll just post up one smaller, easy to digest video where I go into a game and give a first impression, describe the game and mechanics and how much fun it is.

Some additions after my live commentary:
The original arcade release of Outrun does predate Rad Racer by a year.
Outrun 2019 is exclusive to the Genesis/Mega Drive and was not released on anything else.

Check me out on Twitter and Facebook!
https://twitter.com/SirPsychoPlays
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Why-Did-I-Play-This/277098909016440

Retro Video Game Christmas Commercials: The 90’s

Leave a comment

I am a child of the 90’s, a love child. This was the age of Mode-7, Blast Processing, 3D, Playstation, and encompasses the rise and fall of Sega. So let’s take a look at as many Christmas commercials from the 90’s as we can possibly fit on our monitor.

Nintendo

What exemplifies the early 90’s more than the constant playground war of Nintendo vs. Sega? So it makes perfect sense for retailers to pick one side of the other in this argument or face everybody’s wrath!


Gee, would you look at the time? I missed the memo that I must write in rhyme! When it comes to your games, Sears has them all days. In the front or the back, come buy your new cartridge pack, and play the kiosk in store to curb your hunger for more.

Seriously, Sears kicked ass in the 90’s for gamers. What the hell happened?


This is just amazing, if there is one piece of media that makes me remember what it was like being a kid in the 90’s it is this right here. Entitlement of youth, grungy attitudes, snarky remarks, and a desire to sit down and play video games. I like how the rhyme goes, “South Park will be fine,” as if they’re just settling for it. “Yeah I’ll take it, but I really wanted Mystical Ninja you dumbass parents!”


A nice, generational war, of course. Then as soon as the douchey 90’s teens find out that grandpa likes to roll with some Tetris they decide that old folk aren’t bad. If grandpa’s hearing aid worked he might learn that Tetris was made by a dirty Communist!

Sega

So those were some pretty entertaining commercials from Nintendo’s side of the ring. But does Sega always do what Nintendon’t? Can they top the Big N and encourage people to buy any of the 3 systems they released in the 90’s? How about the add-ons?


Sega advertising at its finest, if you want your kid to be the cool kid on the block then go out and buy him a Sega Genesis for Christmas, then every kid in the city will want a piece of that Blast Processing action.


As a constant follower of Midget Wrestling this is one of the quickest ways to grab my attention, and they have good taste in video games since they just made a ton of money selling the game to Sega, somehow.

Ok, now let’s move away from North America for a moment and take a look at what Sega brought out for their Japanese commercials.


This may very well be the greatest thing I have ever laid eyes on. I am going to perpetuate the story of Segata Sanshiro as Santa Claus to my children, citing this commercial as definitive proof. If you’re unfamiliar with Segata Sanshiro and why he helped the Saturn dominate the Japanese sales charts then just check out this playlist.

Word of warning, the American Saturn commercials are weird as all hell, and incredibly frightening in some cases. Search at your own risk.

Sony
A newcomer on the scene of home video game hardware in the mid 90’s, Sony and their Playstation quickly rose to global dominance and kept its grip firm for over a decade. Is it because their commercials were great?


Yes, yes they were. Oh that sound and the PS logo really take me back, excuse me while I nostalgia-gasm all over my room. Again, this commercial shows what the 90’s was all about, trying to find your own voice, going against the grain, and supporting Bill Clinton.


What’s awesome about this commercial is that everything the singers say about Crash Bandicoot: Warped is 100% factual. This is one of the greatest parodies of a Christmas carol I’ve ever heard, I might start singing it this year. I feel bad for Canadians though, $50 for a new PS1 game and its already $10 off? Man, you guys will hate when I say brand new PS1 games in the States were $40. What was the exchange rate in 1998? Tell me Crabby!

Let’s head back to the Land of the Rising Sun.


Crash Bandicoot and PaRappa walk up to a random guy bearing Christmas gifts, just another thing to add to my list of things to experience before I die. Cosplayers, make this happen!


Kick! Punch! its all in the mind.

Well that about does it for the nostalgic video game Christmas commercials. I will be going on a small hiatus until 2013 rolls around. Until then, please share if you’ve enjoyed this post and my others, comment with feedback, and hit that follow button on the sidebar. SirPsycho out!

Why Did I Play This? Episode 8

Leave a comment

I used to have a bunch of toy Crash Dummies! Oh man I have so many ideas of how to make this a good game, but where to start? Oh screw it, let’s just jump right in and see if this game is everything I hope it could be!

Check me out on Twitter and Facebook!

Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: